Hundreds of workers at a bakery near Sheffield are preparing to strike after voting in favour of industrial action over proposed changes to pay and conditions.
Staff at Gunstones, in Dronfield, voted 95.3% in favour of action after owners 2 Sisters Food Group announced the changes.
Under the proposals, employees would have overtime rates on weekends and Bank Holidays reduced. Sick pay would also be cut. Workers were given 90 days notice of the change of contract.
Ballot papers were sent to around 800 members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union at Gunstones. Votes were cast between 23 February and 2 March.
Sam Vickers, organising regional secretary, said he wanted to avoid strike action if possible and was hoping the vote would prompt the company to make concessions. Following the vote, the union now has 28 days to begin any industrial action.
“I want to use the 28 days to try and negotiate a settlement,” said Vickers. “The first thing I want them to do is withdraw the threat of the 90 days notice that is hanging over everyone, then we can sit down and discuss what we’d like to implement properly and meaningfully.”
The union and management are due to meet for negotiations on Wednesday 7 March. “We’ll find out on Wednesday whether they’re serious or not and are treating us as equals,” said Vickers. “The company is making a profit. We will only strike when we believe we have no option,” he added.
Andrew Hanson, head of communications at 2 Sisters, said: “We are disappointed, but we are continuing to talk to the union and we are confident we can work towards a resolution. We have had strike ballots before and they haven’t always resulted in strikes.
“2 Sisters Food Group operates in a highly competitive environment and, as a major supplier to all of the UK’s leading retailers, we continually need to ensure that we deliver the highest quality at the lowest cost, particularly with trading conditions remaining challenging at this time and with high food inflation. This is about trying to secure Gunstones for the future. It is a tough market at the moment and this is about making sure it remains viable.”